BIRMINGHAM — State small business officials on Wednesday recognized the founders and current administrators of Jacksonville State University’s Small Business Development Center for their service to entrepreneurs in the area.
The local center, one of seven throughout the state, serves as a resource center for residents hoping to start a small business. Staff members there help aspiring entrepreneurs draft business plans and navigate regulations and paperwork associated with given fields.
“It's a great staff, and we are pleased with the opportunity to help businesses in our community,” said the center’s program coordinator, Ken Grissom, at the state’s Small Business Administration awards ceremony in Birmingham.
The administration oversees the Alabama’s seven small business development centers.
The award, the District Excellence and Innovation Award, goes to centers that contribute significantly to economic development in their areas, particularly concerning small businesses, according to the SBA’s website.
Bill Cummins, executive state director for Alabama’s small business development center network, said his colleagues at JSU have performed at the top 2 percent of comparable centers since the local resource agency began.
“This center is absolutely amazing when you look back at the 30-plus-year track record of consistent performance at the highest level,” he said.
Also praising Jacksonville State’s center Wednesday was Carolyn Minerich, president of Carmin Industries. The Calhoun County business offers fabrication services, including cutting materials such as granite and steel with a high-pressure water jet.
She said she went to the local center with only an idea to buy the cutting machinery using her and her husband’s life savings. What she lacked, she said, was a building to house the equipment and customers to buy the services.
“Robbie took me under her wing and taught me research and most of all, she prepared me for that first meeting with vendors,” Minerich said, referring to then-director Robbie Medders.
Minerich said Carmin Industries was named Alabama’s Small Business of the Year in 2002, and the company has cut material for B2 bombers and the International Space Station.
“It all started with my first meeting with Robbie Medders at Jacksonville State Small Business Center,” she said.
Pat Shaddix, a former director who helped found the local center, said it’s a distinct honor for the former and current administrators of the local program to be recognized by their peers.
“We're just proud that we could be of service to the community,” he said.
Also attending the awards ceremony in Birmingham Friday were Amy Anderson and Joe Grimes, both business consultants with JSU’s Small Business Development Center.
Medders said every small business must have a good team, and the center’s team includes the university’s administrators.
“You can't be successful unless they support you, and also the SBA, the chambers of commerce, state agencies and elected officials — that's our team,” she said.
She said the best thing about being a consultant at JSU’s business center is getting to work with innovative business owners such as Minerich and having a small role in making those businesses grow.